When is the best time to travel?

One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “when is the best time to travel to Africa?”

As with everything about safari, the “best” time is very nuanced, so the answer depends on your priorities. Remember, we specialize in bespoke safaris, so every aspect should fit you to a T.

Are you looking for dry conditions and high wildlife densities? A warm end to your honeymoon on the beach? Or is your goal to avoid the crowds and soak in the vastness of Africa’s unspoilt wilderness?

Yes, location definitely factors into your safari. But timing is also critical.

To help illustrate the differences in seasons, I’ve compiled a guide that highlights some of the variabilities in weather, wildlife, landscapes, and logistics that we consider when helping you choose the right destination and the right time of year for your safari.

January through March

Southern Africa

Green season means lower pricing (especially in Botswana), verdant landscapes for vivid photography, and an abundance of baby animals and birdlife. The days are typically hot with the occasional quick rain shower. Unlike other destinations, the green season is the best time to visit Botswana’s Central Kalahari, as more wildlife can be spotted now than in winter. The large herds are dispersed during these months, but it’s an ideal time to combine safari with a visit to South Africa’s Cape Town and the Cape Winelands which are in their prime with late-summer weather akin to the Mediterranean.

four zebra running around in muddy grounds
Green season in Botswana is lush and perfect for outstanding game viewing

East Africa

With lighter crowds and exceptional game viewing overall, Kenya and Tanzania are wonderful destinations for January and February, before the seasonal rains arrive mid-March. The plains of the Southern Serengeti swell as calving season begins with zebra foals in late January followed by wildebeest births in February and March. This is the most reliable time of year to spot the huge herds of the Great Wildebeest Migration and the predators who stalk them. The crystal-clear waters of the Seychelles are at their best in March for scuba diving and fly fishing.

a cheetah is on the prowl amid a herd of migrating wildebeest

April and May

Southern Africa

Water levels at Victoria Falls continue to build during these months, peaking near the end of May, resulting in powerful spray that rightly gives the Falls the name “The Smoke that Thunders.” If you can, time your visit around the full moon to photograph lunar rainbows!

a lunar rainbow emerges across Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
Moonbow at sunset, Victoria Falls

East Africa

Travel in East Africa is much harder in April and May, as many seasonal camps close due to heavy rainfall. With weather patterns constantly changing, however, there are exceptional savings. If you’re considering a June safari, opting instead to travel during April or May is a great way to avoid the crowds.

a young woman look at the camera as a safari vehicle drives through grass lands
Schuyler from Extraordinary Journeys enjoying the ride. Green season in East Africa can be beautiful with fewer crowds.

June through September

Southern Africa

The dry winter months in Southern Africa thin out the bush. You’ll have the benefit of increased visibility as well as more waterhole drama between predators and prey as water becomes scarcer. Game viewing is outstanding. Many camps in Zambia and Zimbabwe are only open these months, making June through September the ideal window to visit. Herd sizes and concentration increase in both East and Southern Africa as the dry season continues and temperatures warm up. You should expect peak visitors during these months, making private conservancies more important—and valuable—than ever.

tourists canoe through grassy waters as elephants graze in the background
Canoeing in the lower Zambezi

East Africa

June through September is a fantastic time to visit East Africa. At the end of this stretch, the Great Wildebeest Migration reaches Kenya’s Masai Mara, though both Kenya and Tanzania feature an impressive collection of year-round wildlife near permanent water holes. These months are also one of the best times of the year for gorilla treks in Rwanda and Uganda. Gorilla trekking makes for a simple and seamless addition to your East African safari—and utterly unforgettable.

a young woman wearing a black jacket smile as a gorilla sits in the background
Amelia from Extraordinary Journeys gorilla trekking in Rwanda

October and November

Southern Africa

With scorching hot days, the weather may not seem ideal, but in October and November, the exceedingly dry landscapes foster epic wildlife sightings as animals congregate at water sources. As seasonal rains begin in November, take advantage of lower pricing and lighter crowds. Consider coupling a safari with great weather in Cape Town, or flock to the beaches of Mozambique.

clear blue waters of the Seychelles surround a deserted island
The beautiful beaches of Mozambique (photo by Lisa from Extraordinary Journeys)

East Africa

In Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains, the chimps’ seasonal movement toward the shores of Lake Tanganyika makes treks a bit easier this time of year. The weather is perfect for beach life, too, affording the ideal post-trek relaxation. The Great Wildebeest Migration begins to work its way back down from Kenya through the Central Serengeti.

a chimpanzee relaxing in a tree
Chimpanzees in Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania

December

Holiday travel means rooms are very hard to come by all across Africa. Consider planning 1+ years ahead to avoid compromising your once-in-a-lifetime safari.

two young girls watch a herd of wildebeest while sitting on top of a safari vehicle
A safari is the perfect way to celebrate the holidays!

If price plays a factor in your decision-making process, we will advise you on long-stay discounts and free-night offers that make travel during any season a good value. If your travel is fixed on certain dates, that’s okay too! Give me all the puzzle pieces, and I’ll assemble them in a way that maximizes both your time on the ground and your dollar

Plan Your Safari Today!

Ready to start planning your own incredible African adventure? We make the process stress-free and enjoyable. Call or email us today to explore your best options for a safari holiday you’ll never forget!

Then, start packing that suitcase because we’ve got all the details covered.

CONNECT with your personal travel expert.

Have you started planning your safari on your own? Are you totally overwhelmed with all the information out there? Let us help you cut through all the conflicting information online and start planning a safari that is completely tailored to you. Get in touch with us and we can discuss your travel passions and help you begin the planning process for your dream safari.

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Lara Ray